Sunday, July 29, 2012

Realistic Sci-Fi in AC3 - The Sphyrna


Sphyrna

noun

1. a genus of hammerhead sharks in the family Sphyrnidae

 2. a fictional airborne aircraft carrier

 3. the main base of operations of the terrorist organization known as "Ouroboros"
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 (Picture credit: Antare)
 Specifications
  
Designation: UI-4053 (Codename: Sphyrna) 
  
General characteristics
  • Type: ECM-equipped mothership
  • Length: 238.5 m
  • Height: 90.92 m
  • Width: 53.44 m
  • Total weight: 254200 kg
Performance
  • Maximum speed: 404 km/h (251 nmi)
Armament
  • Several AA guns and missile turrets
  • UI-4054 "Aurora" (1)
  • X-49 "Night Raven"(1)
  • XFA-36A Game (6)
  • R-103 Delphinus#3 (4)
  • SU-43 "Berkut" (2)
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The concept of an airborne aircraft carrier is not new. In fact such a concept was already being researched during WWI, with the first working protoype reaching completion in 1919. The first concepts for this kind of airship were all based on the Zeppelin: dirigibles that could carry a number fighter planes instead of bombs.


 
R33 class rigid airship with bi-planes locked onto its sky-hooks

The main goal of carrying smaller (parasitic) aircraft was to balance the long-distance durability of bombers with the agility and attack capability of fighters. The fighter planes would be tasked with scouting missions as well as providing offensive firepower against long-range targets while also protecting their carrier from enemy attacks.

However, many problems arise when considering the feasibility of an airborne carrier in a real-world context.
  1. Cost: such a project would reach ridiculously high cost requirements, unsustainable for the even the richest nations in the world. Dozens of billions of dollars, wouldn't be a bad estimate actually.
  2. Complexity and size: a large airship capable of holding at least a dozen airplanes would be very hard to keep operational. The more parts a machine has, the more likely it is to break down.
  3. Vulnerability: large airships are large targets. All it takes is a missile hit or two for it to come crashing down, with all its crew and expensive defense systems and aircraft. Airplanes left flying in the air would have nowhere to land unless friendly airfields/carriers are within immediate vicinity.
In the end, all hopes of making any kind of dirigible ended with the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937, when it became all too apparent how dangerous a dirigible was even in non-hostile environments.

Click here to watch footage of an operational airborne carrier.

No designs ever left the drawing board again, so all we're left with are these interesting pieces of concept art, such as the Soviet nuclear Zeppelin and this monstrosity by Lockheed...

1 comment:

  1. That last one by Lockheed actually got me into another idea: How feasible would it, hypothetically, be to more or less retool a passenger aircraft/bomber sized plane to carry a very large amount of very long range air to air missiles? Tactically it probably wouldn't be of much use, considering that air battles don't happen any more anyways, true. Though it would act as a sort of directed advance air defence line, since it could exceed local SAM coverage...

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